Hoppers Run out of Magic, Lose Championship Series
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - In the end, with the days growing shorter and the summer gone, the Greensboro Grasshoppers ran out of magic and fell one comeback short of a title.
The Hoppers brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday night, but Liover Peguero popped out on the first pitch he saw and Greensboro's championship hopes were dashed when the ball settled into the glove of Bowling Green third baseman Brett Wisely.
Grant Witherspoon went 2-for-3 with a home run and two runs scored, and the top-seeded Hot Rods defeated the Grasshoppers 6-3 in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the High-A East Championship series at Bowling Green Ballpark.
Witherspoon batted .421 with three home runs and six RBIs in the best-of-five series.
Right-handed reliever Bear Bellomy â who went 9-2 in the regular season and led the High-A East in wins â took the loss in Game 5, giving up five runs on three walks and a hit batsman in the disastrous fourth inning.
Bowling Green held off the Hoppers from there.
Trey Cumbie, a 25-year-old left-hander, pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief to get the win. Zack Trageton struck out four over the final 2 2/3 innings, pitching out of the ninth-inning jam to end it.
The Hoppers left seven runners on base in the game, going just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Greensboro finished with seven hits â all of them singles â from seven different players. That was out of character. The Hoppers led the 12-team league in hits during the regular season, and 40 percent of those hits went for extra bases.
The Hoppers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth, but missed out on a chance to put a crooked number on the scoreboard.
High-A East hits leader Jared Triolo led off the inning with a single, and reliever Addison Moss walked Lolo Sanchez and Will Matthiessen to load the bases. Cumbie replaced Moss, and he walked Blake Sabol to drive in the first run.
Matt Gorski followed with an RBI grounder to Wisely, who stepped on third base to force out Matthiessen as Sanchez scored on the play.
But Cumbie retired the next two hitters to pitch out of the jam with no more runs allowed.
The Hoppers threatened again in the fifth when Peguero walked, took second on a balk and stole third base. With one out, Triolo flied out to right field and Peguero tried to score, but he was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Greensboro stranded another runner in the seventh inning, and then came one last rally in the ninth.
Sabol and Gorski hit back-to-back singles with one out, getting on base for Aaron Shackelford, who led the Hoppers with 22 home runs this season. Shackelford popped out on a 2-2 pitch, but Andres Alvarez followed with an RBI single to left field.
But that was the end of the rally. Trageton coaxed the pop-up from Peguero on the next pitch, and Bowling Green celebrated a championship on its home field.
And after 125 games from early May through late September, a magical summer was over for Greensboro.
In his career at the News & Record, journalist Jeff Mills won 10 national and 12 state writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the N.C. Press Association.
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High-A East League Stories from September 29, 2021
- Hot Rods Win High-A East Championship in 6-3 Game-Five Win - Bowling Green Hot Rods
- Hoppers Run out of Magic, Lose Championship Series - Greensboro Grasshoppers
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